STEALTH ACTION SHOOTER
This level was an exercise in level designing a James Bond-like first person action experience inside a European cityscape.
I used the real city as reference to create a believable space that was interesting to explore and that worked well with my action heavy gameplay.
What I did:
Took the project from Pre-Production to Whitebox Playable
5 weeks of work half time
First person weapon with UI
Enemy spawning and other events
Whitebox meshes created in Blender
What I had help with:
UE 4.26 First Person-controller template with AI by Tommy Norberg
As I went into this I had decided to iterate on a previous concept; making a first person stealth action level where players traverse/use stealth one way, find a MacGuffin and fight their way back.
My focus was to make the level event driven while immersing the player in the Portugese city. It lead to some interesting scripting solutions along a twisting cityscape with believable infrastructure for the AI to take advantage of and for the player to discover.
Some months back I had seen a post on Twitter by Helder Pinto, principal art lead at Blizzard Entertainment, of a level for a Half Life: Alyx set in the city of Porto, Portugal and it lodged itself in my mind. I hadn't left Sweden since pre-pandemic and I had a somewhat newfound love for all things Portugese. Madeira wine, Fado and Saudade were all new and delicious concepts to me. The decision to make this level for my portfolio was clear and immersing myself in this level was a really pleasant experience. I hope it shows.
I had my main reference set with Pintos level but I needed to make it a bit bigger. So I started making a massive PureRef-document for references. I gathered lots of images mainly of Porto, but for inspiration I also looked at other Portugese cities in an attemt to capture the Portuguese spirit and common denominators in architecture. I also observed and analyzed other first person shooter levels in similar settings, like Seaside from Black Ops 4 as well as Canals and Italy from CS:GO.
Blockout: Working Fast and Finding Scale
My guidelines were I wanted to use the Dom Luiz bridge as a landmark and I wanted to incorporate the somewhat extreme elevation of the city.
I was already consciously thinking of where the AI would enter the scene. Then I went back and cleaned up the overview.
I used that to block the whole thing out to bring the project to alpha.
Alpha to Gold
The first iteration of the level became a bit bulky and unfocused. I needed to straighten out the gameplay beats as well as figure out the purpose of the different spaces. I wanted them to feel charming and slightly strange while retaining readability and believability.
Overview from alpha.
Final overview sans callouts.
I set up some cameras overviewing areas that I knew were going to be pivotal and took screenshots of my progress.
The biggest breakthrough was to make the tramway go with the level in stead of through, helping the players mental map and tying the level together while also creating more points at which I could introduce groups of enemy AI.
Dealing with AI
Introducing enemy AI in interesting ways was my main focus and left their functionality largely conceptual.
I gave them a hitbox that would register headshots that would down them in one hit.
I also made a variant that had handguns instead of assault rifles, and made those drop ammunition for the player.
The level starts off with enough space for the player to get their bearings in safety, along with a nice vantage point before you dive into it. Like an establishing shot.
Drawing the Eye
I've tried to be smart about introducing enemies, using motion to draw attention and organically blocking off paths.
Here I offer another vantage point and open the level up for free exploration. The player will need to fight their way back through this area later.
Letting the player get lost
At this point I add a second choke point leading into a tighter area with sprawling alleys. Somewhere in which is the players goal they need to find.
Turning up the heat
Once the player finds what they're looking for a silent alarm goes off and the gang of goons pile back into the level.
The player gets to revisit the past areas, blazing through and using their knowledge of the environment to make their escape.